What to put on a Charcuterie Board

Start with the basics when deciding what to put on a charcuterie board. Meat + cheese + crackers = basic charcuterie board. (Note that basic doesn’t mean it won’t be delicious).

peppered salami next to fresh rosemary and a small loaf of bread as a way to show what to put on a charcuterie board

What to Put on a Charcuterie Board

Let’s talk about those incredible cured, smoked, or even fresh meats.

Meat

We made a list of the best meats to put on a charcuterie board, but here are a few of our favorites:

  • Cured meat – think prosciutto, capicola, or sopressata. These are all thinly sliced, salty, and a bit fatty, making them perfect with a creamy cheese and a sweet jam or mustard.
  • Smoked – salmon is a great choice, but a smoked sausage is divine.
  • Salami – We almost never make a board without some type of salami present. The Sopressata from above also falls into this category, but it’s delicious enough to be mentioned twice. Genoa salami is fairly common and readily available; it also makes gorgeous salami roses.

Cheese

We also made a list of the best cheeses for charcuterie, so check out that comprehensive info. But you can’t go wrong choosing one or several from this list (try to pick just one from each):

  • Soft cheese: Brie tops the list here, as does gorgonzola, goat cheese, and camembert. Don’t forget about burrata cheese, either – it’s delightful. In the warmer months, not much is better than fresh ricotta with lemon zest and freshly cracked black pepper (serve with freshly sliced peaches and basil ribbons…oh my)!
  • Semi-soft cheese: Gouda almost always works. Gorgonzola, mozzarella (especially if it’s been marinated in fresh herbs and spices), even a mild provolone is a solid choice.
  • Firm cheese: Cheddar is an obvious choice, and one that really can’t go wrong. Gruyere, Grana Padano, and Manchego all have wonderful flavor profiles.
  • Hard cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano is a salty, crumbly wonder that fits right at home on a charcuterie board. Pecorino-Romano, Emmental, and Mimolette are great hard cheeses as well.
a wheel of brie on its paper wrapping, cut into wedges as a way to show what to put on a charcuterie board

Accoutrements

We also have a master list of the best accoutrements! The list below has some terrific ideas, too:

  • Condiments – think whole grain mustard, jams and chutneys, balsamic glaze, whipped honey, and even a garlic herb oil for dipping bread.
  • Something pickled or briny – olives, capers, caperberries, roasted red peppers, cornichons, marinated artichokes, and pickled asparagus are all great ideas. Or add a tapenade in place of whole olives.
  • Fresh fruit – berries are my go-to (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, golden berries), but sliced apples or pears, tangerine wedges, grapes of any color, peaches, melons, kiwi… any fresh fruit will work.
  • Dried fruit – cranberries, cherries, apricots, dates, figs, oranges. Some of these are perfect to fit into the little nooks and crannies toward the end of board building, too.
  • Nuts – pistachios, almonds (we’re partial to the rosemary or truffle Marcona almonds from Trader Joe’s), walnuts, candied nuts, or even nut brittle are delicious. Chestnuts are a great choice during the holidays.
  • Fresh vegetables – mini cucumbers cut lengthwise into quarters are almost always on our boards. Halved mini bell peppers, charred but still crisp-tender asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and radish are also favorites.
  • Dips – these are especially nice if you’re on a budget. Make a dip the centerpiece of your board and cut back a bit on the meats and cheeses. Add some endive leaves for something a bit elegant for scooping.
  • Pâté – make your own, order some in advance or swing into a gourmet food shop. We’ve even tried the duck liver pate from Lidl and it was quite delicious. Remove it from the packaging and place it in a small, pretty dish, and no one will be the wiser.
  • Something sweet – this is entirely optional, but a few carefully placed chocolate truffles, mini cookies, or just high-quality broken chocolate pieces add a little something special.
different types of nuts in small bowls as a way to show what to put on a charcuterie board

Crackers and Bread

This category is the one that people seem to put the least thought into, even though it’s just as important – if not more so – than the other ingredients. The right crackers or bread can really make or break that perfect bite.

  • Water crackers – when in doubt, go with water crackers. They don’t have a competing flavor so you’ll ensure your other ingredients will shine.
  • Crostini – slicing a baguette and toasting the slices with a little olive oil (add a sprinkling of sea salt, too) is the perfect vessel for meat and cheese.
  • Fruit and nut crisps – you can thankfully find these everywhere these days. Even Target has a Fig and Rosemary flavor, and they’re just as good as others we’ve tried. Balance these out with something like a water cracker or crostini to have the best of both worlds.
  • Cheese straws – set some in a tall jar on the side of your board or toward the center. Is there anyone who doesn’t love a cheese straw?
  • A seedy and rustic-looking cracker always adds a nice touch to any board or cheese tray.

Edible Flowers and Fresh Herbs

  • Edible flowers – nothing takes a board from gorgeous to stunning quite like a few carefully placed fresh flowers. Geraniums, roses, and marigolds are all very pretty choices. Be sure not to use any sprayed with pesticides, however (you can buy food-safe flowers online or I’ve seen them at Whole Foods). 
  • Flowering herbs – If you catch your herbs just as they’re flowering, they make a perfect addition.
  • Fresh herbs – rosemary is our go-to, but depending on the board we also use thyme, mint, and basil. Thyme is especially nice on a Mother’s Day or Bridal Shower board.
  • Another way to elevate a simple charcuterie board is to use a  cookie cutter to cut out shapes into the cheese. For example, slice a brie wheel in half crosswise, then cut a shape (such as a Christmas tree or star for the Christmas holiday) into the top half. Spread jam over the bottom half, then place cut piece back on top. You can also cut letters from thin provolone or cheddar cheese slices (something as simple as “MOM” works) and place it on the board.
fresh edible flowers in yellow, white, and purple

What about boards that aren’t traditional?

I’m glad you asked. 

Now that we’ve covered what to put on a charcuterie board – a traditional board, anyway – let’s talk about some unconventional boards and what you might put on them.

  • Breakfast boards: Waffles, croissants, pancakes, bacon, hard or soft-boiled eggs, yogurt, fresh fruit, toast, English muffins, condiments (maple syrup, peanut butter, jam), bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon (capers, creme fraiche, chopped egg, and minced red onions in that case as well), cooked sausage (links or patties), cinnamon rolls, or even crispy potatoes.
  • Holiday boards: mini cookies, candies, chocolate truffles, chestnuts, sugared cranberries, quartered or halved pomegranate, spiced or sugared nuts, marzipan fruits, golden berries, herbed cheese
  • Charcuterie Boxes: These are so fun to make and wonderful to gift. You put all the same things inside as you would a board, just on a much smaller scale. For example, just a few slices of brie, a few ounces of each meat and other cheeses, and single-serving amounts of accoutrements. A salami rose tucked inside is a nice touch, too. Then tie it up with some baker’s twine and a little tag. We’ve also added single-serving bottles or cans of wine (if we’re familiar enough with the person to know they’ll partake and enjoy).
  • Barbecue boards: Now we’re straying far from traditional charcuterie, but who wouldn’t love to chow down on one of these bad boys in the summertime? Ribs, chicken, brisket, corn on the cob, biscuits, candied bacon, bacon jam, grilled veggies, pickled onions, baked beans…you get the idea.

Now that you know what to put on a charcuterie board, you might be interested in learning how to make a charcuterie board and how to choose the right charcuterie board dimensions.

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